Back in April, artist Lonnie Hanzon successfully completed a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to put the icing on his contribution to this year's fortieth anniversary PrideFest event: a massive, twenty-foot-tall wedding cake that would symbolically stand for marriage equality in our state and country. The sweet piece was to be constructed of steel, foam, wood and a heaping portion of disco balls that were inherited by a dearly departed, fabulous friend of Hanzon. In the gay world, you need to be over the top if you want to get your message across — and this sculpture takes the cake. We caught up with Hanzon as he and his mostly volunteer team were putting the finishing touches on the sweet delight just in time for this weekend's gigantic event:
Westword: Congratulations on making your Kickstarter! What was the first thing that funding for the project bought?
Lonnie Hanzon: The Kickstarter was just that — a way to get it going. The Kickstarter money went to steel, foam, plywood — all the glamorous stuff… (People that love the project can still help offset expenses at Equalitycake.com. )
For those not in the know, tell us about "Equality Cake" and what it means to debut at the fortieth anniversary of Denver Pride?
Equality Cake is a temporal, monumental public sculpture celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the Denver PrideFest, and hopefully bringing attention to both the romantic and legal aspects of marriage equality during the looming Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality.
Where did the first snap of inspiration come to you for the cake?
When researching for the project, I was struck by the starkness of the 1,138 rights, responsibilities and privileges of marriage (documented by the United States Accounting Office in two separate reports), juxtaposed with trivial and hateful arguments about cakes. People picking fights over cake instead of discussing the real issues. I was saddened and angered by the Colorado “cake” stories: "Once again, Colorado getting a national story for the wrong reasons.”
How many of your bequeathed disco balls did you end up using in the final piece?
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We expect to use at least 100 disco balls on the cake.
How long will the piece be on display in Civic Center Park and where will it go after that?
Only on display Saturday and Sunday. It will be set up Friday, and come down Sunday night.
It seems like an incredible amount of work — so why so temporary? Would you have liked this to live on a little longer in a different location?
Yes, it might seem like an enormous work for such a short period of time, and I wish it could find a permanent home, But a parade is a parade.Many of my works involve hundreds of hours and then only last a fleeting moment.
The important thing is that people see it — which hundreds of thousands of people will — and that it makes an impact both visually and emotionally to those who do see it. If it gets captured by photography and video as part of the imagery of this time and this history, that much the better. The location could not be any better - literally sitting in the center of our Civic Center, surrounded by our State Capitol, the courts, the library, the Greek theater, the art museum, the City and County Building, the McNichols building, and the pavilion leading to downtown.
What does Pride mean to you?
Well, obviously the pride movement has come a very long way since I came out and became “illegally” married to my partner in 1982. When I was a young man, my assumption was that I would need to hide my sexuality and partnership my entire life. To be present at this historic time, this sea change, is amazing. I am honored that much of the support for this project came from heterosexual friends, clients, patrons and businesspeople who are supportive of us and our work.
Of all events going on this weekend, are events you looking forward to the most?
I am sure it will be fun to see the throngs (and thongs) of people and hopefully witness people getting married or photographed in front of the sculpture, but to be truthful, getting this 1500-pound monster installed, exhibited and down — with aplomb — is my greatest wish for the weekend.
What's next for you after this project?
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I am designing the new Wizard’s Chest toy store at 451 Broadway, which will open in September, and creative directing the ArtReach Festival of Trees.
And what of the Supreme Court's pending decision on marriage equality?
I was really hoping the Supreme Court would rule this morning, and they did — about signage codes and personalized license plates and important trials, but not marriage equality. I have to admit, it is going to be a bummer if we miss the ruling by one day or week — as the Supreme Court isn't expected to rule again on the 22nd, the 25th or the 29th.
You can view Lonnie Hanzon's Equality Cake June 20-21 at PrideFest in Civic Center Park. Want to get married next to the sculpture? Read The Center's guidelines on how to do that this weekend here.